Stretching out a career
C.J. Stretch knew early in his Western Hockey League career that he would have the chance to get a lot of games under his belt.
“After my 17-year-old year, a lot of the older guys were like, ‘Wow, you’ve played a lot of games,’” the 20-year-old Irvine, Calif., native said.
“I had only missed 17 games.”
That was in 2007.
It wasn’t until a little bit later that Stretch actually thought he might set the Kamloops Blazers franchise record for games played.
“I kind of thought maybe one day,” he said.
“I never thought it would happen until this season.
“But I’ve been looking forward to it for pretty much all season.”
Stretch set the Blazers’ all-time mark on Friday night in Spokane, suiting up for his 325th game with the team, surpassing Aaron Gionet’s old mark of 324.
By chance, Friday was also the night Kamloops netminder Kurtis Mucha became the all-time leader in games played among WHL goalies with his 234th appearance.
“He [Mucha] said a while ago, when there was 15 games for me and eight for him, maybe we could get the same game [to set the respective records],” Stretch said.
“It worked out.”
Stretch said there was no fighting over the puck in the dressing room after the game.
“Neither one of us actually got the puck,” he said.
“But we wouldn’t fight over it, anyway. . . . With this team, everyone’s pretty close.”
Mucha said he’s glad to have the WHL record.
“It’s a good feeling,” the 20-year-old Sherwood Park, Alta., product said.
“It’s something you can be proud of.
“I haven’t had the most successful career, but it [the record] is something you can look back on and be proud of.”
Mucha credited discipline and a little bit of luck for his WHL longevity.
“I got a lot of minutes when I was young, but I’ve always been in pretty good shape, too,” Mucha said.
“So just staying in shape and discipline are important.”
Mucha, who was acquired from the Portland Winterhawks in a November trade, also holds the CHL record for minutes played by a goaltender.
The vast majority of his WHL games played — 213 — came in a Portland uniform.
He’s played 21 games with the Blazers.
Due to some luck on the schedule, Mucha was able to set the WHL record for minutes played and tie the record for games played in Portland, where he spent parts of six seasons.
“It was special,” he said.
“Not many players get to play as long as I have in this league and I’m very thankful for that.
“The focus now, though, is to continue working hard and clinching a playoff spot.”